After parts of Britain suffered at the force of the St Jude storm, many properties have been left needing urgent repair work. However TrustMark are urging homeowners to ensure they are hiring reputable tradespeople to complete the work and make their houses safe again.

The gale force winds, reaching up to 90mph in some places, knocked down trees, blew down fences, damaged roofs and contributed to widespread flooding when combined with the heavy rainfall. As a Government, industry and consumer protection group supported scheme to ensure consumers find reputable tradesmen with the right qualifications for the job, TrustMark recommend making use of their online database to ensure no one falls victim to rogue traders looking to make money off of a bad situation.

Stuart Carter, Head of Marketing at TrustMark said: "Following extreme weather conditions, bogus property repairers often trick people into paying high prices for unnecessary or shoddy work so I would advise consumers to be extra vigilant and only use reputable tradesmen you know are registered with either TrustMark, which is the only endorsement from Government, or a recognised trade association. And never agree to have work done by somebody who turns up uninvited on your doorstep."

Ray Horwood, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, said: "Our advice to property owners who are concerned about the condition of their roof is to contact a reputable roofing contractor for a proper assessment and, if necessary, to obtain at least three quotes for any works."

APL Committee Chairman, Mark Gregory, Chairman of the Association of Professional Landscapers added: "Old fences, weakened by rot and decay are easily damaged or brought down by the high winds so employing a landscaper to do repair work on your garden can often be a bit hit and miss with homeowners facing a lottery of companies who promise to carry out the work. Consumers can feel confident that by employing a TrustMark registered landscaper, the quality of work will remain high at all times and that a professional standard will be met."

Via Installer Online

Is your electricity bill made up of “hidden” charges? Well an energy expert seems to think so.

Energy suppliers and brokers have been challenged by energy expert, David Hunter, from global energy management company, Schneider Electric, to be open about these hidden costs. Unknown levels of commissions to energy brokers and price comparison websites are contributing to higher energy bill costs for householders and industry.

Speaking on BBC1’s Breakfast programme, Hunter said, that we are facing increasing energy bill announcements but weren’t being given full visibility of how the costs are made up. Asked to explain whether bill increases were justified, and what the reasons were behind the increases, Hunter said there was not enough competition in the market, and although we shouldn’t let the suppliers off the hook, increasing costs of green subsidies, energy efficiency schemes and rewiring Britain were adding more to bills at the moment than wholesale costs.

However, he further explained that an unknown portion of the "suppliers’ costs" on the bill is paid in the form of commission to energy brokers and price comparison websites. While these companies provide a valuable service, Hunter said, "One thing we don’t see broken down in the figures is how much money goes in hidden commission from the suppliers to those websites, and I think that would be interesting to see."

He added, "At a time when rising bills are placing real pressure on the cost of living, and also increasing the costs of British industry doing business, it has never been more important that all aspects of the bill are made transparent. From supplier/producer profits to green policy costs and broker commissions, all charges should be open and scrutinised so that homes and businesses don’t pay a penny more than they need to, just to keep the lights on.

"As a start, I call today on both suppliers and brokers to clearly state the amount of hidden commission included on energy bills, and would ask customers whether they are prepared to put up with secret third party costs at a time when bills are shooting up."

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Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager here at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

As a former All Black and Cardiff Blues rugby team captain, 36-year old Xavier Rush is someone sports fans have probably heard of. But after a successful sporting career at both domestic and international levels he’s finally hanging his boots up and moving on to the next stage of his life. Choosing to retrain to become a fully-fledged property developer, he approached Access Training Academies and recently completed our kitchen fitting course. Now he’s moving on toward even more qualifications to expand his trade resume and take on even more work.

We sat down with his to discuss his plans for the future and how he’s finding the change from a ball to a toolkit...

Now that you’ve retired, what’s next for Xavier Rush?

Now that I’ve finished my rugby career I knew I obviously needed to retrain in something. I’ve always enjoyed properties and doing them up so I’ve come here to get as many strings to my bow as possible. The more I can do the less people I’d need to get in for jobs and the less I’d need to pay out.

I first did carpentry when I was 18 and had just left school, but it’s great to have a facility so close to me and the speed at which you can build your skills up. I originally came to do kitchen fitting which I’ve completed, but there’s the Part P electrical component to it too which I’m doing now for the next two and a half weeks. After that I plan to crack on and do six weeks of plumbing as well!

How has the course been so far?

I’ve been really enjoying it and the tutors have been excellent. There’s always some things that you’re better at than others – some of the bends in the plumbing took some time to get my head around. But the more practice you have the better you get at it. You aren’t going to sail through every day – some days are worse than others but you often find once you’ve slept on it, you come back the next day and get it. It’s great to be learning new skills and really refreshing to have a change of career. A lot of people get a bit scared but I’m really looking forward to it – it’s life after rugby for me.

Will you miss the rugby life?

Of course there’s always aspects you will miss – the getting up for a big game like a Heineken Cup match, playing in front of a big crowd. I’ll miss those moments but there’s enough of them in the memory bank to call on every now and then. It’s nice to be on the other side of it now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career. I feel quite fortunate – it was a fairly long career and now I’m more excited about getting things started with my own business. It’s just time to move forward with life.

Look forward to more updates from Xavier Rush, who will be sharing his training experiences with us each week as he works towards his new qualifications. In the meantime if you have any questions you'd like to ask him about turning towards a brand new career, let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we'll pass the best ones onto him.

According to new research the British public have spend an alarming £2.6 million on fixing plumbing disasters, and now new online plumber search facility WaterSafe is warning homeowners about the cost of using a dodgy plumber.

The survery, which featured a sample of 2000 consumers, found that 69% admitted that they choose their tradesperson based solely on price, without worrying about their qualifications or if they're part of a registered scheme. As you can imagine though, this naievety comes at a price - 23% admitted to have fallen victim to a rogue plumber while a further 23% know someone it's happened to. The price of the average repair job? Try a whopping £426.

It seems the biggest problem is that sourcing a legitimate plumber just simply isn't a priority for people. 68% of respondants said they would trust the opinion of a friend or family member, and 27% would add a neighbour's referral on top of that. In comparison, only 21% (a mere fifth) said that they actually go on to check whether said plumber in properly qualified.

Interestingly, this blasé attitude clearly doesn't extend to the cost factor, with 69% stating they wouldn't trust a plumber to quote the right amount and always get a second opinion. Not surprising, given 33% claim they have been overcharged before. It seems all it really comes down to is who offers the cheapest price, regardless of the quality.

This is exactly what WaterSafe has been put together to end. It is a nation register, accreditation body and online directory that customers can use to locate credible plumbers and trademen in their area and hopefully pull the plug on rogue traders once and for all.

Kevin Wellman from WaterSafe said: "Our survey results are truly shocking. Whilst it is fully understandable that, times as they are, UK homeowners may need to be extra frugal, the price of putting cost before credentials can be catastrophic.

"Not using a properly qualified plumber is not only dangerous; it’s a false economy and could end up costing the homeowner thousands of pounds and a lot of hassle to put right. Furthermore, there are the safety implications. Water safety in the home is of paramount importance and by using a dodgy tradesman; homeowners are not considering the risk that contaminated water poses. For us, the motto is "be safe, be Watersafe"."

Former Watchdog presenter and TV personality Alice Beer supports the campaign to get the UK clued up on legitimate plumbers, adding: "WaterSafe's website allows consumers to search for an approved plumber in their area, ensuring that they are getting a safe and competent tradesman to carry out work in their home. By using a properly qualified professional with this scheme, we can work together as a nation to drive out unethical plumbers and raise safety standards."

Visit WaterSafe's official website for more details.

Via InstallerOnline

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If you are planning on becoming a professional plumber, make sure you do it the right way and get the proper qualifications. Not only will you be able to pride yourself on having the proper skills to get the job done, but you won't run the risk of facing hefty fines and possibly prison time should you be exposed. Do it the right way and come study at Access Training Academies. We offer intensive plumbing courses that will get you fully qualified in a matter of weeks. To find out more give our sales team a call on 0800 345 7492.

British housebuilders Persimmon Homes is launching a recruitment drive across its 24 businesses to find tradesman as it prepares to build more homes across the country.

They are looking for subcontractors, labour-only subcontractors and direct employees to help the business meet demand from buyers. Since April the company has already taken on 286 trade and apprentice direct employees and is now targeting people who may have left the industry or are looking for a new career.

The campaign has also seen Persimmon undertake research looking the perceptions of tradespeople among the UK public. HR director Richard Latham says that although enlightening, the responses do not paint a totally true picture of working in a trade in 2013:

“Our research shows that 78% of people in the UK view the work of tradesmen as skilled, which is extremely positive, but worryingly, 70% don’t feel the job is rewarding and 82% don’t feel it has a competitive salary. In our experience, this is extremely wide of the mark.”

He believes that even more worrying is the fact that 48% of people feel that the negative stereotypes surrounding tradesmen stop young people from pursuing a career in the industry.

"Our research found that the majority of people in London (67%), the South East (65%) and West Midlands (62%) think that there are limited jobs available to them, whilst 54% of the North East and 40% of Scots admit that it is extremely hard to find jobs in their local area.

"Our apprentice campaign is extremely popular and we will soon be kicking off our search for over 100 more young people to join us in 2014. We see young people as the future of our business and we invest both time and money in one of the best training programmes in the industry. Many of our senior personnel, including our current chief executive Jeff Fairburn, started in the industry as an apprentice."

Steve Roche, Persimmon’s group communications director, added: "Demand for new homes is definitely on the up, partly thanks to the government-led purchase schemes, such as Help to Buy, and also due to the general improvement in the economy."

Via HVP Magazine

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If you're looking for an active new career than this could be the opportunity you've been waiting for! A career in the construction one is not only a rewarding one financially, but also among the most satisfying and fulfilling in the country. But before you can experience this first hand, you're going to need the necessary skills and qualifications. Access Training specialises in all forms of construction, with experienced tutors more than ready to guide you toward the next step of your working life. To find out more contact us on 0800 345 7492.

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